Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chapter Thirteen: HIDDEN IN THE HOLLOW

But what of the land?  It seems that the earth may be borrowed but not bought.  It may be used, but not owned.  It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting.  But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters.
-Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings 

Hannah swung open the screen door, "Good morning...Have you seen the horses already?"

Harlan nodded.  "I gave them a little straw, but they're looking for more to eat."

"Do you have some rope or bailing twine we could use to rig up a temporary fence to let them out on more grass?"

"And Anna asked if I could see if there are any ripe tomatoes," said Emily.

Harlan had been so deep in thought this morning that he was a bit overwhelmed by the the enthusiasm and energy he faced, but he smiled broadly.  There was a bundle of rope and twine in the goat shed, and he would show them the best area to enlarge the yard.  The girls got busy making trips to the spring to fill the trough even though the rivers edge was a matter of yards away.  It became a game as they laughed wrapping twine around some large trees several feet about the ground.  Of course the horses could get out easily if they tried, but they were too co-opperative and content with the new grazing.

"Hey, Hannah, think we should tie Emily to one of those trees while we're at it?"

Emily, playing can't catch me, ran off and discovered a small private place on a ledge tucked in between the river and the house.  It was Anna's herb and flower garden alive and buzzing with bees.  Emily wanted to grow hollyhocks too.  They made her think of people standing around together.  A humming bird zoomed past her to sip at the tall blue salvias. Anna mentioned that they often read on the terrace in good weather.  Emily wondered if they could see this peaceful garden from there?  It seemed hidden.  Wouldn't it be fun to find a hidden spot somewhere for her own secret garden?  Emily sighed, then she remembered the tomatoes!

The others were already in the vegetable patch situated on a small sun-filled plateau.  Last night it was too dark to notice all this on the way to swim.  Here was corn, squash, green beans and then she spotted some red on the tomato plants.

Canning has already started for us," Harlan was bending among the plants.  "Have you ever eaten a tomato right from the vine?  I mean, while they are hot from the sun?"

"I've never had one hot," Kellie said, not much interested in the idea.

"Really?  Hannah's blue eyes sparkled with challenge.  "Try one."

"Emily caught up and grabbed a ripe tomato.  "Here, this one's really warm."  The juice squirted in all directions.  

Kellie decided to try, and amused everyone with the funny expression on her face.

"Many years ago Payne Hollow was a steamboat landing where people brought all kinds of garden produce to sell, items like those squash there.  They could buy off the boats too. Riverboats were not just for traveling."

Harlan pointed out an overgrown path that led along the river and disappeared into the undergrowth.  "That way is to an old root cellar that was here a long time before we came.
Do you remember the falling chimney you passed when we came down the hill yesterday?
Well, the people who lived there so many years ago kept some of their food in that cellar.  It was a good walk to get to it from the top of the hill.  It must be in just the right spot to not be vulnerable to ice and currents, because the cellar has been under water several times.  We can go see it."

Emily went back to the house to help Anna, but the older girls wanted to explore.  Stepping carefully behind Harlan, they watched carefully for snakes and poison ivy.  The path was muddy in places as it curved along the river's edge.  "See that lush patch of green?  Stinging nettles. You don't want to get into those with bare hands or feet.  It has stinging little hairlike prickles. We use gloves to pick the tender tops and use it dried or fresh.  The goats loved it, it enriches the compost heap, and cream of nettle soup is a favorite of ours.
It's used medicinally too."

They reached the low domed stone and cement structure they were looking for.  It really was beautifully made with a curved cement shelf all around the inside.  Being care of anything that might sting or bit, they stepped down inside to inspect the arch of the ceiling. It was as perfect in shape as any capitol rotunda.

"This makes me think of the Pyramids,"  Kellie said.  "How did they do it with primitive tools and no machines."

"What happened to those people?  It must have been hard to leave this behind."

"It's a sad story because someone was murdered up there in that house.  We've heard tales about it, but we don't know what is true so we don't try to say.  We only know that at the time we came here, this place had been deserted for a long time.  It does demonstrate how everyone, every place or thing, even an old chimney in ruins, can have a story."

The girls noticed blueish stone with deeply cut fossils in the walls of the cellar.  Harlan said he would show them where there they could find small pieces to put in their saddle bags.  They realized, except for the river side, they were surrounded by lush blackberries.  It was easy picking, so they decided to bring some for breakfast.  They got a big laugh out of Ranger.  As they carefully picked berries from the top of the canes, Ranger was pulling them off and eating them from the bottom.  They had never seen a dog do that before.

The bell at the house was ringing.  Breakfast must be ready.

*Original Harlan Hubbard woodblock print.

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